• Long4Life, the JSE-listed company headed by the legendary Brian Joffe, this week disclosed its first investment from a R100 million venture capital fund was into Veldskoen.shoes.
  • The tiny Cape Town company just launched in the UK – and has plans for Europe, America, and Australia next.
  • SA's iconic veldskoene was ripe for reinvention and branding, the company's founders say.


In early April the JSE-listed Long4Life concluded the first investment from a R100 million venture capital fund intended to "assist in the development of South Africa’s vast collective of emerging entrepreneurs".

By late April that first investment had launched in the UK and set up – and now it is looking towards Europe, the United States, and Australia.

Because everyone wants SA's iconic footware, says the founders of Veldskoen.shoes. They just don't know it yet.

"The expansion wasn't reliant on the funding [from Long4Life], but it helps," co-founder Nick Dreyer told Business Insider South Africa.

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Long4Life listed on the JSE a year ago and now has a market capitalisation of R5 billion. It owns Sportsmans Warehouse, Outdoor Warehouse, and beauty group Sorbet, with plans to add more wholly-owned subsidiaries soon. The company hopes to be worth R10 billion in the near future, says CEO Brian Joffe, who is credited with building Bidvest through smart deals and acquisitions.

But it also plans to get involved in early-stages companies – like Veldskoen.

Long4Life first disclosed the Veldskoen acquisition on Wednesday. Neither party would say how much it paid for its 49% holding, but the deal is likely to be vanishingly small on Long4Life's books. But both sides believe the shoe company's growth potential is enormous.

"It is one of those objects in SA just there for the reshaping, and reintroducing it as a brand, as opposed to just something you buy at a padstal [farm stall]," says Dreyer.

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Dreyer and partner Ross Zondagh were looking for "something small to start and grow", says Zondagh, when they "sort of fell onto veldskoene by chance".

 

It now sells shoes named "Vilakazi" and "Pinotage" (depending on the brightly-coloured sole and laces) made in Cape Town, and already available via a British distribution base. From there it plans to offer the shoes to mainland Europe before expanding to two more continents.

Long4Life has not said what it will be looking for in further venture-capital investments, but the Veldskoen partners have some idea why they were the first pick. Their company was in the stage of "proof of concept that was working", they say, so that Long4Life funded a business rather than a bare idea.

"At that point it was three guys in a tiny office in Woodstock, but the proof was in the pudding," says Dreyer.

The pair also think it helped that they had a strong concept, rooted in an "old brand", that was taking off in the digital lifestyle space.

That they will be marketing South Africa to the world was, perhaps, a bonus.

"This is an opportunity for South Africans to have an item of fashion that is ours, that we can feel proud wearing and that we can sell everywhere," says Dreyer.

This is how Veldskoen.shoes is promoting SA's iconic footware.

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